Your Way Was Through the Sea

December 1, 2017

What do you do when the path ahead seems fraught with danger – when there are a zillion ways that all could fall apart, when worries and cares abound? When your eyelids are propped open at night, as you lie in your bed imagining all that could go wrong?

This is the situation of the author of Psalm 77. God seems distant and uncaring; He seems angry, reneging on His promises. Remembering past times of intimacy with God only serves to magnify the sense of alienation the author experiences in the present.

So he asks: Has God’s unfailing love failed? Has He forgotten to be merciful and gracious? Will He never again be kind to me? (Psalm 77:7-9)

But instead of continuing in self-pity, questioning God’s character, in the following verses the psalmist wisely changes course: Instead of focusing on his past subjective experiences of God, he disciplines himself to meditate on the objective revelation of God through history – particularly through the history of His mighty acts on behalf of His people (Psalm 77:10-12).

The psalmist looks first at the big picture: Over the centuries God has proven Himself to be holy and mighty, a Redeemer of His people (Psalm 77:13-15). He then focuses on one specific act – God’s bringing His people through the Red Sea (Psalm 77:16-20). He imagines himself among the Israelites, with the Egyptian army behind them and the impassable waters in front of them. There is no way out. All seems lost. Despite God’s power and might exhibited in the nine plagues, despite the miracle of the death of the firstborn leading Pharaoh to let the people go, now they will all be slaughtered by the army or drowned by the sea.

But then God divides the sea! The waters well up, “a wall to them on their right hand and on their left” (Exodus 14:22). And the people make that long trek across the sea.

Yet as he imagines the event, the psalmist realizes something vitally important – important for him and for all of us facing challenging circumstances – a point we often miss in telling the story of the Exodus: “Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters” (Psalm 77:19a). God is leading them right into the midst of the sea! They must walk for miles, with the water piled up on both sides. Should that water pour over them, there is not a thing they can do to save themselves. There will be no escape. Is this a deliverance – or the path to their destruction? Clearly God has acted to part the waters – but will He keep the waters parted for the hours it will take them to cross?

Friends, this is characteristic of the way God acts toward His people. The way ahead looks uncertain and frightening. We can imagine thousands of ways all could fall apart, all could go wrong. We pass through the valley of the shadow of death and are tempted to fear all sorts of evil, for we question the power and the goodness of the Shepherd.

When you experience such fear and doubts, follow the example of this psalmist: Remember how God has revealed Himself through the history of His people. Remember that His way is often through the sea; we are to walk right into the midst of the dangers and challenges. Remember that He promises that “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). Remember that it is in such circumstances, when we are at our wits’ end, that He is most glorified in saving us. Remember – and then trust the mighty God who never changes, whose unfailing love never fails, who promises that nothing will separate us from the love He has for all of those who are in Christ Jesus.

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